Every bride (wedding planner) has a vendor checklist for their wedding day; Bridal bouquet: Check. Photographer: Check. Timeline: Check. Catering: Check, and so on. The list can include up to 20 or 30 vendors. However, most brides do not know about the pre-checklist that will save them time and stress. The list before the list if I may. Unknowingly they skip this step and then lose time by backtracking in the planning. What is the point of looking for vendors if you do not have a location first? Couples should have a list of factors ironed out before the actual wedding list is even in play in order to help brides figure out what to look for, and what they need to know to make their search more efficient and save time and reduce stress. The most important factors to consider in a pre-checklist are budget, guest count, location, date and wedding concept.
As it happens with most things in life, the budget limits our freedom. There is no sense looking at 5,000 dollar purses if you have 500USD to spend; OK sorry, bad example, my wife does that; I’m in trouble. But seriously, unless you are one of those lucky enough to spend whatever you like, you are like the rest of us who have a budget to follow. This does not mean you cannot have a wonderful “dream” wedding. It just means your wedding requirements needs to be aligned with your budget. In our experience in Martoca, for example, we have had weddings for 12,000USD and weddings for 120,000 USD, but, both of these lovely couples who had the weddings with us were equally happy with their wedding. The budget does not guarantee you happiness or a successful wedding; Realistic expectations, your disposition and attitude and creativity do. So do not worry. Your wedding will still be a smash hit regardless of the budget, you just need to plan for it properly.
So first on your list is agreeing on a budget. This will help you identify what is affordable. In a way it is liberating because it will free you from tough choices. For example the guest count must be reduced if the budget is lower. Therefore, you can eliminate the annoying cousin you have not seen in years, and not feel bad about it. Other examples of what the budget will determine for you is if you can afford a private wedding or must go with a hotel wedding; How far you can fly to a destination wedding or what location is or is not an option. Budget decides if you can afford a Saturday wedding or must do it on a Wednesday to save money. Every major checklist item is determined by what budget you have available.
Once you have a budget in mind the next important factor on the list is the guest count. Depending on the guest count, you will know if you need a villa or cheap hotel or an independent venue with private deluxe condos surrounding the venue. The guest count and the type of guests will narrow down the options and help you in your search. A destination wedding of a good quality level with many fun features will require about 550 dollars per guest. It sounds like a lot but remember, you are inviting fewer guests. This is why the guest count is tied closely to your budget restriction.
For example, you may have 130 guest count in your mind, but if you have only enough for 50 guests then you must either cut the guest count, or upgrade the budget or change location and the date, or lower quality of services. It is all tied together. Usually 60% of guests invited to a destination wedding attend the actual ceremony. So do not be too worried to begin with 100 guests because usually the real number will be closer to 60 guests. If you need a quick estimate guide for a destination wedding budget 550 USD per guest is about average. So whether you begin with your budget and then arrive to a guest count, or begin with a guaranteed guest count and then arrive at a budget, you need to have both in your list. Remember you can always add guests later. The guest count you need to budget is the absolute guaranteed count or, the ones you know are coming for sure and must be accounted for in your budget.
Checklist item number three: Location. Your guest count and budget will both play a part in your location selection. Once you have a budget and guest list, then you will know who you must accommodate with travel access. For instance, if your great-grandma is non-negotiable for your guest list and she has a hard time traveling, then of course for her sake you will not choose to be married in Thailand; You need a short direct flight. Location selection depends on a subset of factors like flight times, direct flight, accessibility, cost of travel, or even safety concerns for guests or length of stay for guests.
Once these factors are determined, you then must dive even deeper in detail when you determine the town or area in town you want. If most guests are young and adventurous you may do a more risky proposition. Something with night clubs or nature hiking. However, if your guests are older or more conservative in their entertainment, you may want more traditional or family oriented destination. Some guests need a hospital nearby or some do not like mud or 4 flights of stairs to go up to the villa. So location selection involves a macro and micro analysis. Have fun debating!
Once you have the first three factors under control, the next big factor is coming up with the wedding date. You must have a list of dates that are compatible with the following: Guest schedules and accommodations, vendor schedules, best weather patterns, hotel rates or flight rates among others. A good date selection will accommodate as many of these factors as possible as well as fit within budget. When you contact the venue or hotel have a few dates in mind. For example, a weekday date is less expensive than weekend and a low season date is less expensive than a high season date. So now we have tied the budget, guest count and location along with the date. The pre-checklist is almost complete. Bonus tip, plan a year out at least for venues in high demand areas if you must have a weekend.
The final yet very important decision that must be accounted for in your pre-checklist is a bit less technical: The overall concept for the wedding. When you consider all the other items on the list, their combination should lead to a decision on the type or style of wedding you are looking to create. International or national wedding. Beach or mountain. An outdoor wedding or indoor wedding. Hotel wedding or private garden or villa. Casual or elegant. Intimate custom wedding or large cookie cutter wedding. It all depends on your specific needs and of course budget. You will never make everyone happy. But in group travel you must think in general terms; You cannot please each and every person. You have to think about the majority of the group in all these decisions.
You now have a list of the main tools you need to begin an efficient search for a successful customized destination wedding. Other minor details will begin to emerge as you begin your search such as, if you want buffet or not, or live music or DJ. You will have to decide if you want a venue that just does everything for you, including the planning and design like ours, or if you want DIY and so on. However, you will solve them much easier now that you have the 5 basic core items in mind. These fundamental building blocks will lower the stress and confusion to a minimum so you can have a wonderful wedding within budget, no matter the location or what style you decide on.